A friend of thirty years appeared to me yesterday morning at the office to be more than usually tired and glum. He’s carrying a load that would break my back. I heard him mention that he needed to get to the workshop to build a coffin. It was his second coffin making experience in the last few days. It suddenly occurred to me, as the murky haze shrouding me in self-pity cleared for a moment, that coffin building, let alone serial coffin building, is not something one should have to do alone. I coaxed him to let me drive down the the workshop with him to lend a hand.
It was a thought provoking experience. As we measured, sawed and hammered the coffin a boy who had suffered measles as a young child now lay dead from a type of meningitis which occurs eight to ten years after a measles infection. Sometimes it’s good to have something to do with your hands as dangerous thoughts run demon-like through your brain.
Death. We tread lightly around the subject. We seldom discuss it unless the prospect sticks its ugly head up out of the pit and says, “Boo!” A father considers the possibility when a child is ill with measles. It’s a killer and a maimer here. The son defies the odds and survives, seemingly healthy and strong. Years later the son sickens and dies as the time-delay fuse on the landmine burns through. A husband and wife quietly and with careful logic, keeping it at arm’s length, discuss the ever so remote possibility as if it were the most unlikely thing in the world. Suddenly the subject becomes less academic. The psychic earthquake topples all of the complex edifices. They show themselves finally as facades. How we trust life!
In the meantime, someone somewhere is nailing a coffin together.
Outside the workshop a banana tree was busting its guts to make bananas:
It’s got to be one of the stranger flowers on the planet. This orb holds a great number of very strange things – pathways leading to indeterminate destinations, doorways to alternate universes.
We were desperately short of eating utensils. I ate with my fingers. Someone, who shall not be named, but is sitting at the far left of the picture, forgot to bring the cutlery.
Hmm . . . I seem to be rambling this evening. I’m between major dirges. This will be a tiptoe through the garden of fitful discontent.
Though I am sleeping much better now, I may as well get used to the idea that I’m never, barring a serious concussion, going to have a long, uninterrupted snooze again. Early life sleep patterns go awry in maturity. Onset of sleep becomes more haphazard and difficult to achieve. Interruptions are more frequent and the return to sleep is delayed, sometimes impossible. I’m trying to minimise as much as possible my intake of sleep aids, because they have some very undesirable side effects.
One thing which I’ve relied upon for years is a not-so-good book. I always keep my glasses where I can reach them without moving too much. The book is just under them. If I read through slitted eyes and try very hard not to go to sleep, I’ll usually doze off. Then the light interferes with slumber and my glasses are all cattywampus and hurting my ears. So, I wake up again. What do I see? Those who suffer insomnia will probably recognise this sight:
Yes, that’s your hand somehow still clutching the book loosely while the pages flap lazily in time with your breathing. It’s decision making time, eh? Rouse enough to remove the spectacles and turn the light off or find your place again (if it really matters) and try again. Sometimes it seems a very difficult decision.
We trip lightly through a world where most everything seems to stay in its proper place and things usually appear to work more or less as they should. We’re not seriously threatened by regular tragedies and life can go on for decades with little bother or fuss. There are usually no huge injustices or overly troubling developments to rattle our cages enough to enrage or frighten us. It strikes me that this orderliness makes us very innocent and vulnerable. We’re ill prepared for adversity:
The world can grow suddenly very dark and scary. Everything takes on a dual aspect of terrible familiarity while simultaneously being strange, out of kilter. This is the alternate universe idea of which I spoke. It is as if one accidentally takes a wrong turn, stepping through some odd black door and finds oneself in a world in which everything known is instantly transformed into a twisted version of itself. Up is down. Right is left. Right is wrong. Look around for the back side of that odd little door. You can’t find it. It has disappeared – vanished in a puff of pixy dust. As it is so succinctly stated in The Eagles’ Hotel California, “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.”
It’s a self-portrait. I call that a smile these days.
I had a very nice semi-surprise party at Monty and Meri Armstrong’s home. Meri had very sweetly asked me what I wanted to do about my birthday. Frankly, I’d been dreading it, along with Christmas. I not-so-subtly told her that I really didn’t want to be bothering with it, but if someone decided to do something about it I wouldn’t object. How clever is that? It’s about as nuanced as a ball-peen hammer wrapped in velvet. Meri was very gracious and within a day or two I had a mysterious invitation to “dinner” on Saturday night. I was not disappointed.
Since it was an intimate gathering of friends there was plenty of this magnificent bit of culinary prestidigitation for all. The blackish stuff is some kind of delicious berry, the name of which I can’t recall.
So, for the upteenth time I’ve gotten through a rough patch by the simple device of allowing my friends to drag me along. They suffer the thorn pricks and stone bruises along with me. They pick me up when I stumble, patch me up when I’m bleeding and leaking salty tears.
I’m a very wealthy man. You can’t count my fortune. Numbers don’t go that high.